Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, overcame an untimely penalty on a lap 75 restart to improve 19 positions over the final run of Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway to earn an 11th-place finish.
Gragson took the green flag for the 120-lap event from the 18th position but wasted little time charging forward, utilizing the outside line to draft into the top 10 by just the second lap and all the way up to sixth by the completion of lap 5. The driver of the Switch Chevrolet maintained his top-10 track position throughout the caution-free stage, ultimately taking the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage One on lap 60 in the sixth position, earning five valuable stage points in the process.
During the stage-ending caution, crew chief Dave Elenz called the Las Vegas, Nevada native to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment, but a speeding penalty forced Gragson to line up for the beginning of Stage Two in the 31st position. Despite the penalty, Gragson once again powered forward, needing only one lap to draft back into the top 20. The driver of the Switch Chevrolet’s march forward didn’t stop there as Gragson took advantage of the outside line to draft up to the 13th position just before the caution-free second stage came to a close on lap 60.
Prior to the beginning of the final stage, Elenz once again brought Gragson to pit road for just right-side tires and fuel, sending the JR Motorsports driver back out in the sixth position. Gragson quickly moved into the top five when the race went back to green, drafting to fourth on the outside line before the caution flag was displayed on lap 71. During this caution period, the decision was made to return to pit road for fuel only. However, an issue with the lineup on the ensuing restart resulted in a restart-violation and a pass-through penalty for Gragson. Undeterred by the penalty, Gragson returned to the track in the 30th position and remained on the lead lap until a lap 79 caution period gave the driver of the Switch Chevrolet an opportunity to rejoin the lead pack.
Gragson took advantage of the lap 83 restart to again make a push toward the front, drafting back into the top 20 on lap 89 and up to the 13th position before the lead pack went back to a single-file formation in the outside line. Despite riding single-file, Gragson repeatedly made attempts to establish an inside line but found drafting partners difficult to come by.
In the closing laps, Gragson’s persistence to make moves in the single-file line paid off as the driver of the Switch Chevrolet was able to gain two positions to take the checkered flag in the 11th position.
JRM teammate Michael Annett earned his first career NXS victory, with JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones, Ryan Sieg and Austin Cindric rounding out the top-five.
Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team
“Today was a solid day for our Switch Chevrolet. It was just difficult to pass there at the end but it’s good to come home from Daytona with a clean car as we get ready for Atlanta. I just want to thank Dave (Elenz, crew chief) and everyone on this JR Motorsports team for their hard work throughout the weekend and congrats to my teammate Michael Annett on the victory. Now we get to turn our attention to a place where we tested few weeks ago and I am really looking forward to seeing what we can do once we get to Atlanta.”